Charity cafe volunteers win award for best Bristol community group

VOLUNTEERS running a community cafe that has raised thousands for charity and bought life-changing equipment for children with disabilities have been honoured for their tireless work.

Barton Hill Rugby Football Club Charity Café won the community group category at this year’s BBC Radio Bristol Make a Difference Awards, which highlight people who go the extra mile to help others.

The cafe, based at the rugby club in Duncombe Lane, Speedwell, has raised money to buy specialist electric wheelchairs, trikes and other equipment to help 17 children with disabilities and their families enjoy more freedom.

It has also bought a chair for use at Bristol Children’s Hospital, raised more than £8,500 for mental health charities Mind and LooseHeadz and donated £1,859 towards defibrillators and bleed kits.

The founding idea behind the cafe, which first opened in 2020, was to provide a place for people to meet and have a bargain-priced meal in good company, every Monday and Wednesday, from noon until 3pm.

Food for the cafe is donated, along with prizes for a fundraising raffle, and the volunteers give their time freely to cook, set up and run each session, to make sure all the money raised goes to good causes.

Mandy Bryant, one of the lead volunteers, said it was an “unbelievable” feeling to win the award at a glitzy ceremony at Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier on September 29.

The cafe was chosen from among the four finalists in its category by actor and new Radio Bristol presenter Joe Sims, who told the volunteers: “I couldn’t be more proud to be a Bristolian and share the dodgems with the lot of you, ’cause you’re absolute beauties!”

The community cafe team with BBC Radio Bristol presenter Joe Sims

Mandy said: “It was a lovely evening and very humbling to sit and listen to the wonderful things people are doing and achieving.

“We didn’t expect to win, so we were a bit stunned, and hope we accepted it appropriately on behalf of everyone.”

Mandy thanked the team of 15 volunteers, business supporters, customers and raffle donors who ensured the charity cafe could function.

She said: “The cafe is staffed and managed on goodwill, and every single penny raised is used to help others.

“It’s not about the cheap food or the bargain table, it’s about friendships and doing good things, so well done everyone.”

Mandy said as well as “being able to see and understand our crazy cafe”, Joe Sims and fundraising group 500 Reasons had given the cafe £200, which was being used to buy more raffle prizes.